The legalization of border violence

Systematic human rights violations have become the norm at the EU external borders. Refugees that are trying to cross into Europe are met with extrem violence from the authorities on a daily basis: There are regular reports of migrants being beaten up, stripped nacked and marked with an X on their head and forced back over the border on the Balkan route. Or just recently Malta has repeatetly refused to rescue boats in severe distress and instead nearly run over people who were in the water. The Mediterranean Sea has become the deadliest border in the world. Newly arrived refugees were put on an overcrowded proson boat, where the conditions were so terrible that person commited suicide out of desperation and others went into hunger strike. In addition civil rescue is constantly criminalised and stopped from saving lifes. Be it the Balkan route or the open seas, European politicians have been absolutly silent and failed to condemn any of these crimes. On the contrary: It seems they rather see thousands of refugees die than for them to reach Europe. The shift from mere ignorance and neglection towards immense active brutality against highly vulnerable people shows a clear escalation of anti-migration policies and thus the administrative acceptance of it.

Greece has also further developed brutal border "defence" strategies. The numbers of pushbacks for example has increased dramatically and shows a new level of violence and disregard for human life– boths on land and at sea. Barely any boats manage to cross the Aegaen Sea anymore. The Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex have created a tight militarised net to keep refugees from reaching Greek territorial waters. If they do anyway, there have been many reports of migrant boats being attacked by the Hellenic Coast Guard, beaten by masked people in boats, being shot at, their motors being disabling and them being dragged back into Turkish waters. In at least 13 cases refugees, some of them had already reached land, were forced into liferafts and left to drift helplessly, unable to navigate. There are videos showing refugees in boats who are begging for mercy in panic while the Coast Guard beats them with sticks. Will this soon be legal?

Greece has not only made this highly criminal practice their "Modus Operandi", they are now trying to legalize this behavior. Giorgos Koumoutsakos, the Greek Alternate Minister for Migration and Asylum, wrote a letter, which is co-signed by Bulgaria and Cypress, to the EU, calling for the addition of an emergency clause in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum. The clauses aim would be to give frontline states the freedom to deal with an exeptional migration flow effectively by being able to use preventive and response tactics.

This would make pushbacks legal and make it possible to suspend the right to seek asylum - a right that is granted to every human according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the EU charter of Fundamental Rights. They are asking for nothing less but to be able to "pause" Human rights, whenever they want to, to deal with refugees and to stop them from coming to Europe. It would be the legalization of human rights violations, give way to even more brutality at Europes external borders and is challenging the very foundation the idea the EU is built upon.

What seems outrageous might find prominent supporters. Horst Seehofer, Germanys interior Minister, has just called for a "massive“ expansion of Frontex, Europes border protection agency and a quick deportation of refugees with ‚unjust‘ asylum claims.

We are deeply worried by the disregard of international law and human rights and the militarisation of border regions. This is a deadly and illegal practise and needs to be stopped immediately. Refugees are exposed to extrem violence and degradation in their hope to find safety within Europe every single day. But so far the silence of European leaders regarding this has been deafening!

Human rights are global and do not just apply to European citizens! There needs to be a public outcry and a widespread and public condemnation of those crimes.

We demand freedom of movement and safe passage for everyone!

Mare Liberum e.V.

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